Category Archives: Do It

9 Genius Hiking Hacks to Take Your Treks to the Next Level

Who doesn’t love a life hack? We might like to challenge ourselves when exploring the great outdoors, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate tips and tricks to make our outings just a little bit easier. With that in mind, we’ve decided to follow our first two installments of outdoor hacks up with another roundup of the most genius hacks the Internet has to offer. This time we’re tackling hiking hacks, so strap on your boots and prepare to hit the trails with a whole new bag of tricks up your sleeve.

1. When darkness descends a bit more suddenly than expected, create an insta-lantern by directing your cell phone light through a bottle or jug of water. This gives off an atmospheric glow rather than a direct beam of light.

cell phone water bottle lantern

Image: www.snapguide.com

2. Practicing Leave No Trace Principles means you may occasionally have to pack out your waste TP. Sprinkle baking soda in the bags you plan to use for this purpose beforehand, which will decrease unpleasant odors.

3. If you find yourself in need of a little hiking aid, fashion your own walking stick.

make your own walking stick

Image: www.wikihow.com

4. Tired of wires getting tangled in your packs? Keep phone chargers and other electrical device wires organized with the help of hair clips. You’ll never have to stop and untangle again.

5. Want an easy way to estimate remaining daylight? (We are assuming, of course, that you spent your phone battery tracking trails and marking waypoints with your Pocket Ranger® app, since the app’s weather tab is the #1 way to check on sunrise and sunset times.) This brilliant graphic says it better than we could:

estimate daylight

Image: www.showmenow.com

6. Did you lose your matches or lighter, or – GASP – forget to pack them? Don’t worry; you’re not doomed to darkness. Here’s how you can start a fire without matches.

7. Speaking of matches, you can waterproof yours at home with shellac. You just need strike-anywhere matches, shellac, a cardboard box, double-sided tape, and tweezers.

waterproof matches with shellac

Image: www.briangreen.net

Adhere a strip of double-sided tape to the edge of the box. Use the tweezers to gently dip each match into the shellac. Make sure you don’t dip it all the way up to the tweezers. Lift the match out of the shellac, give it a little shake, and push it up against the tape upside down. The matches will drip-dry as they hang here, so it’s a good idea to place a paper towel underneath them to catch the drips. Once the matches dry, you’re all set!

8. When your hike is over, your hacks don’t necessarily have to end too. After your hike, stuff wet hiking boots with balled up newspaper to help them dry. Replace the newspaper every few hours until the boots have dried completely.

newspaper in hiking boots

Image: www.runeatrepeat.com

This is a better method than placing your boots in the sun or near a radiator, which can cause the boots to crack.

9. Your hiking boots may also be a bit smelly post-hike. Combat odors by placing a dry tea bag inside your boots after your hike is finished.

We hope these genius hiking hacks will make your treks even more enjoyable. What are your favorite hiking hacks? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Hiking Snacks for Kids: 5 Great Recipes

A lot of these hiking snacks for kids are things that are totally buyable in stores. But if you’re feeling adventurous and you want to add a personal touch to your child’s early hiking experiences, check out these recipes.

Wellness Bars

Courtesy of Wellness Mama

Hiking Snacks

Image: www.wellnessmama.com/1047/wellness-bars/

Granola bars or energy bars are always a staple for some quick energy turnaround. Highly portable and not too messy, these options are also great for children with dietary restrictions.

One of the pros to making your own energy bars is YOU control all the ingredients! You can be sure your kids are eating something healthy that’s free of preservatives and other artificial ingredients.

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup nuts (cashews, almonds, etc) Reminder: peanuts are not nuts!
  • ¼ cup whole dates (remove pits)-about 3 large dates
  • ¼ cup raisins (or more dates)
  • dash of cinnamon (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put nuts into food processor (or Vitamix) and chop to small pieces. Remove and put in bowl.
  2. Put dates and raisins (any combination of the two that equals ½ cup total) into the food processor and pulse until playdough consistency. It will start to clump together when it is done.
  3. Mix the two ingredients by hand until well incorporated and you have the consistency of stiff playdough or cookie dough. (You can do this all in the food processor also.)
  4. Roll between two sheets of wax paper to a ½ inch thickness and cut into bars. (Or make it really easy and just roll into energy balls!)
  5. Wrap in wax paper, plastic wrap or snack size ziploc bags (or glass containers if you aren’t giving to kids) and store in fridge until ready to use.
  6. Enjoy!

Frozen Banana Protein Smoothies To Go

Courtesy of Rhythm of the Home

Hiking Snacks

Image: www.rhythmofthehome.com/2013/05/recipes-for-easy-hiking-snacks/

The double benefit of these smoothies is that they are a great way to have a cool down break in the warmer weather! Heather Fontenot from rhythm of the home uses freezer jars like these that are BPA-free. You can keep them in the freezer and pack them as you head out for your hike. You’ll be glad you have them as a treat!

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas (we freeze our bananas to keep for smoothies, but frozen or not are fine)
  • 3 cups milk (we use almond)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa nibs
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/3 cup dates (pits removed)
  • 1 tbsp ground chia
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup raw almond butter

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients into a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix, and process until smooth and creamy.
  2. Pour into freezable containers, and allow to set over night.
  3. In the morning, simply throw into a lunchbox or hiking pack, and enjoy whenever you need a cold break.

Homemade Fruit Leather Recipe

Courtesy of Penniless Parenting

Hiking Snacks

Image: www.pennilessparenting.com/2012/06/homemade-fruit-leather-recipe.html

Fruit leather is good for a quick snack option on the trail. Penny points out that the best part about making your own fruit leather is using natural ingredients and avoiding the preservatives and added sugar in the store brand (of course buying them is also convenient). Even without all the excess sugar, it’s a treat your kids are sure to love!

This example uses apricots but you can use almost any fruit like plums, pears, strawberriesk bananask and cherries.

Ingredients

  • Fruit (fresh, or canned and strained, raw or cooked)

Directions

Hiking Snacks

Image: www.pennilessparenting.com/2012/06/homemade-fruit-leather-recipe.html

  1. Cut off all the blemishes from your fruit.
  2. Blend the fruit in a blender or food processor until relatively smooth. Small chunks are ok.
  3. Line a baking tray with baking paper, then smooth the blended fruit onto the tray. You should probably use more than pictured [above]- this is too little and makes a thinner, cracklier fruit leather instead of a very pliable.
  4. Put in the oven on the lowest temperature setting possible, and prop open the door a drop (less than a centimeter) to allow moisture to escape.
  5. Check on the fruit every so often, and remove from the oven when it’s dry. Be careful not to keep it in too long or it will burn and/or dry out too much. I found this needed between 2 and 4 hours, depending on how thick I piled it on the baking paper.
  6. Peel the baking paper off the fruit leather, and cut into strips.

Strawberry Almond Energy Bites

Courtesy of Rhythm of the Home

Hiking Snacks

Image: www.rhythmofthehome.com/2013/05/recipes-for-easy-hiking-snacks/

Sometimes you just need a bit of something delicious to keep you going on your hike. These Strawberry Almond Energy Bites from rhythm of the home are convenient to make ahead of time and you can keep them in the fridge.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 6 dates
  • 1/4 cup coconut
  • 1/4 sunflower seeds
  • 2 T almond butter
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup dried strawberries – diced

Directions

  1. Process the almonds in a food processor until chopped.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients through the almond butter, and process until finely combined. Add the diced dried strawberries, and process only until incorporated.
  3. Roll into balls and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 8.

Blueberry Sunflower Energy Bites

Courtesy of Spabettie

Hiking Snacks

Image: www.spabettie.com/2013/04/15/blueberry-sunflower-energy-bites/

Here’s a similar idea to the previous recipe, in the convenience of ball form but changing up the ingredients with blueberries. These are dairy, soy, and gluten free.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 6 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 3/4 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon spirulina powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch sea salt
  • sesame seeds, for coating

Directions

  1. Place cashews in food processor, pulse to a small crumb.
  2. Add dates and blueberries, pulse to combine.
  3. Add sunflower butter, spirulina powder, cinnamon and salt, combine.
  4. Roll into 1 inch balls, coat in sesame seeds. Makes 13-14 pieces.

Fun Snack Bags for Kids

Hiking Snacks

Image: http://www.etsy.com/listing/103970256/reusable-snack-bag-eco-friendly-snack?ref=shop_home_active_1

Here are some great reusable (and therefore eco-friendly!) sandwich bags for your kids! These are handmade with some fun prints and durable ripstop lining inside. They are machine washable and dryer safe.

Feel free to share any ideas about kids snacks that are fun to make and perfect for hiking!

Morel Hunting Basics

Image: morelsandmore.com

Image: www.morelsandmore.com

Spring is officially here and mushroom hunters across the country are eagerly awaiting the return of the spring king: Morchella (morels). Morels are associated with spring because they often appear following that first spell of heavy rain and mild temperatures. Morels are prized for their delicate nutty flavor and fetch as much as $100 per pound in stores. Adding to their mystique is that commercial efforts to grow them have been a failure. Currently there are 19 species of morel in North America, but the most popular and widespread are the yellow morel, white morel, and black morel.

morel jackpot [Image: indianapublicmedia.org]

morel jackpot [Image: indianapublicmedia.org]

Mushroom hunting is a wonderful way to spend time in the woods with friends and family. In fact, kids tend to make the best mushroom hunters because they’re low to the ground. However, before you go out, you need to know how to positively ID morels with 100% certainty. Morels are not hard to identify (finding them is much harder) but there is one mushroom in particular that morel hunters should know and avoid: the false morel.

Avoid this mushroom [Image: diendenbinghallah.blogspot.com}

Avoid this mushroom [Image: www.diendenbinghallah.blogspot.com]

The false morel, sometimes known as a brain fungus or beefsteak morel, differs from real morels in several important ways. On morels, the cap is attached to the stem and if cut lengthwise will be completely hollow (the stalk of a false morel is not hollow.) The cap, known as the ascocarp, contains pits and ridges while the cap of a false morel is folded and wrinkled. In general, the top part of a morel resembles the conical hat of a gnome and ranges in color from light cream to dark brown. It should be noted that despite their toxicity, some people eat false morels. However, unless you have previous experience with the false morel, the best thing to do is avoid it.

Morels are hollow [image: www.ifish.net]

Morels are hollow [Image: www.ifish.net]

The hardest morel to find is your first. Many mushroom hunters get discouraged because morels are very picky about when and where they grow. It also doesn’t help that morel hunters are famously prickly and tight-lipped about their favorite spots. The reason for this is that the mushrooms often grow in the same vicinity year after year. When they do finally grow, the season is short, as morels need plenty of moisture and dry out quickly.

In general, the season begins after a week of nighttime temperatures in the 50s. Cool temperatures, followed by a nice spring soaking, make for perfect morel conditions. Look near stream beds and around fallen trees. These mushrooms prefer deciduous forests of oak, poplar, and especially elm. Old apple orchards are also notorious morel hideouts.

Image: www.nwfoodnews.com

Image: www.nwfoodnews.com

So, you found some mushrooms. Congratulations! Morels have a delicate flavor that doesn’t hold well if dried or frozen. Morels contain small amounts of a toxin that may cause an upset stomach if not soaked in water for a couple hours. When cooking morels, the trick is to keep it simple, so as to not overwhelm their natural flavor. Simply sauté them in a cast iron skillet with butter, and serve as a side or toss into a pasta dish. Remember, morel hunting is hard, but if you persist you won’t be disappointed.

Five Tips for Surf Fishing

Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak

With spring quickly approaching, it’s getting to be that time of the year when you put away most of the hunting gear and get ready to hit the water. If you’re in Florida like I am, chances are you’ll soon find yourself at the beach. The following are a few tips to keep in mind when surf fishing in the warm weather. surf fishing

1. Pick your spot

Some areas of the beach provide better fishing than others. Look at the wave action and current flow to pick out the holes between the bars. These spots of deeper water tend to hold fish and are prime spots to land pompano, redfish, and whiting. Often, the slope of the shore is a dead giveaway of these holes. Try your best to spread your rods evenly to cover as much of the hole as possible.

2. Pick the time

The best time to fish from the beach is early morning and late evening. You obviously won’t be getting the world’s greatest tan during these low-light hours, but the fishing is almost always better. Low visibility underwater means high hook-up chances and the fish are more prone to feeding during these hours. In addition, tide times/changes are important to consider. Generally speaking, an incoming tide produces better fishing than a falling tide. If you have the luxury to pick the time of the day you can fish, aim to do so during an incoming tide. High wave action and currents tend to bring baitfish closer to shore and produce a better bite out of the fish.

3. Bring a chair

Though not required to catch fish, a folding chair can be a life saver. If you’re at the beach, you want to relax. But at the same time, you want to be able to watch your rods. So being able to lean back and relax while fishing is an amazing feeling. It certainly beats sitting down in the sand with having nothing to lean on. Just be sure to position the chair so that you aren’t staring directly into the sun while watching your rods.

4. Choose your bait

There are a variety of baits that work well in the surf. But I’ve found over the years that it’s tough to beat naturally occurring bait when fishing from the beach. Sand fleas (mole crabs) and other small sand crabs tend to out perform things such as cut bait, squid, or shrimp. If you’re unable to find sand fleas, fresh shrimp will probably be your best bet. I personally like to pinch off the heads and thread the hook through the body as best as possible. If bait fishing isn’t what you want to deal with at the beach, small pompano jigs and shiny lures often work well. The only disadvantage with these is that you’ll need to continuously cast if you expect to ever catch anything. surf fishing slack

5. Watch the slack

Anyone who’s ever beach fished has had to train himself to recognize the difference between wave action that’s bending the rod and an actual strike. Keeping bait still in the water is essential in order to recognize when a fish is on. This is why so many people prefer to use pyramid weights that dig themselves into the sand. Tension on the line is what gives it away. But often times, especially with pompano, they’ll pick up the bait, and then swim toward shore. This removes all tension in the line and the rod sticks straight up in the rod holder, leaving the line slack and dragging in the water. A dead giveaway that a pompano is on the line, be sure to retrieve slack line quickly. You don’t want to lose that fish.

So as you find yourself breaking free of winter’s frigid grip and venturing to the beach for relaxation, be sure to bring a fishing rod or two with you. Given the opportunity, it’s entirely possible to relax on the beach, catch a few rays (sun rays, hopefully), and fill the cooler. Just follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to a successful beach trip. Red Snapper

Everything You Need To Know About Being A State Park Campground Host

Do you enjoy camping so much, you wish it could be a full-time job? Well, it can be (sort of) when you volunteer to be a state park campground host.

Hosts serve as “live-in” ambassadors for a campground. In exchange for a free campsite, the volunteer host takes on certain responsibilities. Although the specific job duties of a campground host vary from park to park, and state to state, here are the basics of what you need to know if you’re thinking about being a state park campground host.

Clear your schedule (seriously)

First, you need to have some free time on your hands. Perhaps you are retired, working a job that entails long stretches of time off, or simply independently wealthy and living the dream. At least one of those should be true if you hope to be a state park campground host, because the gig typically stretches from one to six months.

campsite

Do you think you could get used to several weeks of this?
[Image: www.naturallyaprincess.tumblr.com]

Be ready to roll up your sleeves!

What these 30 days to 6 months will be spent doing depends on the park and the state, but one thing is certain: it’s not just a free, relaxing, carefree stay at the parks! (But wouldn’t that be nice?) Generally, hosts are expected to set an example to other campers by being model campers, following the rules and regulations, and demonstrating exemplary housekeeping practices.

That’s not all! Being a campground host involves more than just being on your best camper behavior and showing the other visitors how it’s done. Parks can require anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of work a week! (Remember when we said camping could sort of be a full-time job?) Common host duties include offering visitor information, explaining rules and regulations, distributing brochures and maps, collecting fees, performing emergency repairs, staffing museums, stores, and visitor centers, conducting light maintenance, working on park projects, helping with general housekeeping, and keeping park staff in the loop.

trail maintenance

Image: www.rustyhitop.tumblr.com

If that sounds like a lot of work, you may be interested in hosting with your better half. Couples can usually split the required workload, and surely 10 hours a week sounds a lot sweeter than 20 when you consider the benefits.

Speaking of…

The trade off

You may be wondering why anyone would sign up for such a hefty responsibility. As it is with most jobs, there are some perks involved! The first and foremost perk is free camping. While you’re hosting, you’ll get to camp at the state park free of charge. The free goodies don’t stop there. Pet fees and usage fees for park amenities (such as rentals, boating, swimming, etc.) are often reduced or waived. Some hosts who serve for an extra lengthy amount of time may even be offered a cabin.

stars

Sleeping under the stars is quite the perk.
[Image: www.flickr.com/photos/skeating]

While those are some of the material benefits to being a state park campground host, let’s not forget another very important perk: providing a useful service! Your time spent hosting will allow you to help countless campers in need, and help to maintain the park campgrounds that we all love so much.

Are you campground host material?

Aside from a willingness to volunteer to be a state park campground host, there are a few other things you should possess.

You have to be a people person, since the primary purpose of hosting is to help out your fellow campers and park staff. Campground hosts should be outgoing, helpful, and friendly. If you’re worried you might panic if someone asks you to help them with a flat, you might want to reconsider.

campground

Are you ready to help all these people?
[Image: www.seanlitchfield.tumblr.com]

Physical prowess is also a must. We don’t mean you have to be Fabio, but you should at least be physically capable of performing your hosting duties and working the required amount of time each day and week.

Oh, and you should also have camping equipment. While the state park will hook you up with a campsite, they typically don’t furnish it for you.

Still interested?

If you feel you’re a good fit for a campground hosting gig, contact your state park system to inquire about opportunities. Contact information for the state park systems can be found in your Pocket Ranger® app, which, by the way, can also give you the skinny on all of the state park campgrounds, so you can do your research beforehand.

Have you ever been a state park campground host? Leave a comment and let us know how it went!

Mark Twain’s State Parks

Image: www.i.telegraph.co.uk

In the vast terrain of U.S. State Parks, few famous authors can claim the honor of having not one but two parks named for them. But then again, few authors are Samuel Clemons, aka Mark Twain.

Born in Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835, Clemons would go on to live a rich and storied life that began with one visit of Halley’s Comet and ended with the next (one day later on April 21, 1910). He was the author of a diverse body of work, but will forever be remembered for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The latter is considered by many to be “The Great American Novel”.

He was a humorous raconteur that traveled across the U.S. and around the world, giving talks which many historians compare to modern stand-up comedy. If you happen to be in either New York or Missouri you can learn more at either one of these Mark Twain State Parks!

Mark Twain State Park in Florida, MS [Image: www.mostateparks.com]

Located near his birthplace in Florida, Missouri, this Mark Twain State Park offers many options for visitors looking to enjoy the outdoors. Fishing and boating happens in the 18,600 acre Mark Twain Lake, and there are also camping facilities and areas for a simple picnic on a pleasant day. Not only that, but adjacent to the site is the Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site where visitors are treated to interpretations of his life and times. The Clemens home is even preserved in the museum!

Image: www.mostateparks.com

After decades of adventuring and writing about it, Clemens settled down in the New York/Connecticut area. Located in Horseheads, New York, Mark Twain State Park and Soaring Eagles Golf Course is located near where Clemens and his family spent summers. Visitors can go hunting, cross-country skiing, picnicking, and golfing. Nearby is the Village of Horseheads,  a charming destination with shopping and sites galore, and of course the excellent City of Elmira.

Image: www.ilovethefingerlakes.com

After marrying, Clemens relocated to upstate New York, and lived in the area until his death. Clemens, his wife Olivia, and their children are even buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, just north of Horseheads and Mark Twain State Park. While Clemens’ legacy is always intertwined with the Mississippi River, where legend has it that his pen name was originated, he is also as much a part of the northeast. He even chose Connecticut to be the home state for his famous time traveling protagonist in A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court!

With a bestselling autobiography posthumously published in 2010 (100 years after his death, as per his will), interest in Mark Twain has increased yet again.  From William Faulkner to Ernest Hemingway to Barack Obama, there have been an army of notable figures who have praised his legacy. If you want to see some destinations related to an American legend, you can’t go wrong with these two. Have fun, take in some history, and in some cases you might even end up in the setting of some of Mark Twain’s books!

If you want to learn more about state parks in New York and Missouri, you can download the free Pocket Ranger® app for New York here and Missouri here!

How to De-Winterize Your RV

If winter camping isn’t your thing, you’ve likely been impatiently waiting for spring to arrive so that you can return to the campgrounds and get back to sleeping under the stars. We previously gave you 9 tips for staying warm in your sleeping bag to get you ready for tent camping during chilly springtime nights. If RVs are more your style, then this is the preparation guide for you: how to de-winterize your RV. (You did winterize, right?)

joshua tree rv

Before you can enjoy fun like this, you have to de-winterize your RV.
[Image: www.blog.timmelideo.com]

De-winterizing your RV is essential. It helps to flush out antifreeze that collected in the lines during the winter months, and ensures that the battery is completely charged, the propane gas lines are intact, and the tires are properly pressurized. Although de-winterizing varies a bit between vehicle models and makes, these general tips will have your RV ready to hit the road this spring.

1. Charge the battery

Okay, so, if we’re being technical, Step 1 is actually, “Remove your RV’s exterior winter covers,” but, duh. After that, start charging your battery. Make sure the charger is off while you connect it to the RV. Place the battery near the charger, and then connect the black cable to the RV’s black terminal and the red cable to the RV’s red terminal. Use the dial to set the charger’s voltage to 12V, and then turn it on. Let the battery charge while you tend to the remaining de-winterizing steps.

2. Flush the system

Time to give your RV an enema! Connect a garden hose to the water hookup. Open up all of your RV’s faucets, turn on the hose, and allow the water to flush out the lines. Then check the clock, since it typically takes roughly 10 minutes for the system to be cleaned. Flush the toilets, which cleans the sewer lines and rinses out any lingering antifreeze. When the water runs clear, you can shut off the faucets.

rv bed

While “Install a super comfy bed” is not an official step, it’s certainly not a bad idea.
[Image: www.cyberscribbles.tumblr.com]

3. Inspect the propane gas lines

Remove the propane tanks from storage and place them on the tank mounts (usually located at the rear of the RV, near its tow arm). Connect the propane hoses to the RV in accordance with the proscribed method for your vehicle’s make and model. Check to make sure the hose connections have no leaks. Open the line by turning the propane valve approximately 1/4 of an inch. Place a damp, slightly soapy sponge at the connectors, and see if any air bubbles appear. If you spot bubbles, you likely have a leak and should replace your connections. If you don’t see any bubbles, your lines should be good to go.

4. Hook up your charged battery

Disconnect the battery charger from the terminals, and secure the battery in the vehicle’s battery compartment in accordance with the manual. Connect the RV’s black cable to the battery’s black terminal, and the red cable to the red terminal.

rv camping

Soon, my friends. Soon.
[Image: www.blog.elmonterv.com]

5. Finishing touches

Shut off the garden hose and disconnect it from the RV. Check your tires to make sure they’re filled to your vehicle model’s recommended pressure. Head to a dump station to drain the water tanks and refill them with fresh water.

6. Go camping!

Now that you know how to de-winterize your RV, once your vehicle is all spiffy and ready for another season of camping, it’s time to head to the campground. You may have a favorite location already in mind, but if you need a bit of inspiration, simply search your Pocket Ranger® app‘s Explore feature By Activity to find an Overnight Stay option that accommodates all your RV needs and desires.

rv on the road

Once your RV is de-winterized, you can head out on the open road.
[Image: www.forestonfoot.tumblr.com]

Leave us a comment and let us know, are you most excited for springtime tent camping or RV excursions? Have you de-winterized your RV yet? (And how does it rank on the Excited For Summer Scale compared with uncovering the pool?) However you choose to camp, we hope you enjoy spring in the state parks!